(UPDATE 01/13/17: I just switched from Oxygen to Gazette for the theme for this blog. I still use Oxygen on The Sovereign.)
I love the Oxygen theme available for WordPress.com bloggers. It has the look of a paid-for site and is responsive to the different browser and window sizes of your readers’ devices. (See notes.)
You’re now warned… using the free Oxygen theme at this time can be “complicated.” That is, you’ll have to attend to a number of initial details for set-up, but if you’re willing to learn and also have the time to spend on re-sizing photos after you’ve launched, you’ll have an attractive and useful site for your readers.
I also suspect that I’m receiving more spam comments now that I switched to the Oxygen theme. I regularly delete spam, so this doesn’t bother me. I still recommend the Oxygen theme, but realize this might be an issue for you.
Make the Switch
Are you ready to start? Set aside at least an hour and let’s get going. I’ll refer you to this blog, eQuipping for eMinistry (e4e), or to The Sovereign blog to show you samples of what I chose to do to help you make your own choices. I’m assuming you already have a WordPress.com blog and are just switching themes. You won’t necessarily have to do all that is described below unless you want to keep going. Let’s jump in:
- Go to Appearance / Themes in the left sidebar of the dashboard. Search for “Oxygen” in the themes (or go here to activate the theme).
- If you like, view the Live Preview before you activate the new theme to see what your blog will look like “out of the box.” After you activate, you may be perfectly happy with the placement of all your widgets in the sidebars or you may need to do some clean up.
- You can also stop here if you’re happy with this look and don’t want menus, a featured slide show, background image, or featured header image.
Customize the Look
- You’ll have two sidebars (I would’ve preferred just one to avoid a cluttered look). The default widgets for the right sidebar are “Blogroll” and “Meta” which I didn’t want to use. The only way to replace them is to go to Appearance / Widgets and drag the widgets you want into the Secondary Sidebar. I recommend keeping all navigation widgets, like “Top Posts” and “Categories,” near the top in the Primary Sidebar. If you didn’t have widgets on your blog before this, I recommend “Blog Stats” and “Follow Blog” at least.
- Also in Appearance / Widgets, drag “Archives” and just a few widgets into the Footers. Your most important widgets need to be near the top of your blog.
- If you want a header, go to Appearance / Header and upload your image. I used an image of mountains as a header in The Sovereign blog. I didn’t include a header on e4e.
- I chose a background image for The Sovereign blog, but not for e4e. Go to Appearance / Customize. Choose BG Image in the right blue bar. I used “no repeat,” “right,” and “fixed.” I used the same image as the header image.
- Go to Appearance / Theme Options to choose a font. I chose Georgia.
- Also look through the rest of the options on the blue bar (under Appearance / Customize) for “Colors,” “Front,” and “Site Title.” Go to Appearance / Theme Options and Mobile to further customize your site.
- Remember to put only the most important content in your widgets so your readers are not overwhelmed with choices.
Add a Little Bit More
- For every post, include an eye-catching photo and write an “excerpt.” (The excerpt window is under where you write your post.) This short summary will appear on the home page rather than the entire post.
- In Appearance / Widgets notice the option for an After Post under the Sidebars and Footers in the right column. This gives you the opportunity to post something you wish to repeat after every blog entry. Look for the after post between the post and the comments below. I use the After Post to encourage readers to subscribe to weekly eMails and alerts about eMinistry opportunities through MailChimp. Use the After Post for dated events, too, like giveaways.
- By the way, take a second to go to Settings / Discussions and at the very bottom of the page change the Comment Form to “What do you think?” or something more personable and inviting than the default, “Leave a reply.”
- If you think you’re done, I still recommend you read the next two posts in this series for a bit more tweaking that you’ll want to know about.
Go for the eMagazine Look
Again, you may be happy with how your blog looks, with your most recent posts down the center of the page, like blogs are normally formatted, but you might also want the featured slider on your home page and menus. I’ll go into these steps in a second post. (This has gotten to be very lengthy! If you don’t want to wait for me, the links in the first two note items below can help you move forward.) The next two posts in this series will be:
- about menus and the featured slider and
- about image sizes.
- Responsive WordPress themes are readable from tablets, desktops, phones,… from whichever device your reader is using. If Oxygen looks like more than you want to handle, check out 15 Free WordPress Themes to Get You Started with Responsive Design. I don’t know which of these themes would be easier to use, probably the ones without a featured slider.
- I’m indebted to Quick Tips for the WordPress Oxygen Theme to help me figure out the many details of using this free theme. Vicky also offers tips for WordPress.org Oxygen theme users.
- I wrote this post for WordPress.com users, but the theme is also available for WordPress.org bloggers with more options. This video tutorial can help you get started.
- A $30 custom design is available for Oxygen as well if you want to do more for the look of your blog.